Spelling Change Verbs -care -cire -gare

Italian spelling change verbs
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There’s no official name for them, but I refer to Italian verbs that end in –care, –gare, and –cire as "spelling change verbs" because they have a small spelling change in certain conjugations. For the most part, these verbs are conjugated just like regular verbs, other than a little problem in some conjugations that must be corrected for reasons of pronunciation. It’s easy enough to do, once you understand why and how.

 Note that spelling change verbs are not the same thing as stem-changing verbs.

-care verbs

The letter c followed by a, as in the verb cercare, is pronounced [k]. But look at what happens when you conjugate it in the present tense like a regular –are verb:

io   cerco   noi cerciamo
tu   cerci   voi cercate
lui   cerca   loro cercano

For most of the conjugations, there’s no problem: the c is followed by o or a, so the pronunciation is correct. But in "cerci" and "cerciamo," the c is followed by i, which means the c is pronounced [ʃ] (see Hard and soft vowels). Since we want the c to be pronounced [k] like it is in the infinitive and the other conjugations, we need to harden it by adding h (ch). So the correct conjugation table is this:

io   cerco   noi cerchiamo
tu   cerchi   voi cercate
lui   cerca   loro cercano

More -care verbs

abbrancare   to bite
arrecare   to bring
attaccare   to attach
bloccare   to lock
cercare   to look for
eduxcare   to educate
elencare   to make a list
giocare   to play
imbarcare   to board
imbucare   to mail
impaccare   to wrap
impiccare   to hang
leccare   to lick
locare   to locate
mancare   to miss
raffrescare   to cool
sbarcare   to unload
seccare   to dry
sporcare   to dirty
sprecare   to waste
stancare   to tire
toccare   to touch

-gare verbs

Verbs that end in –gare have the exact same problem. The letter g followed by a, as in the verb pagare, is pronounced [g]. But here’s what happens when you conjugate it in the present tense:

io   pago   noi pagiamo
tu   pagi   voi pagate
lui   paga   loro pagano

Once again, for most of the conjugations, there’s no problem: the t is followed by o or a, so the pronunciation is [g]. But in "pago" and "pagiamo," the g is followed by i, which means the g is pronounced [dʒ]. To get back to [g], we need to harden the g by adding h (gh). So the correct conjugation table is this:

io   pago   noi paghiamo
tu   paghi   voi pagate
lui   paga   loro pagano

More -gare verbs

allegare   to attach
collegare   to connect
coniugare   to conjugate
elongare   to elongate
fregare   to cheat
fugare   to flee
impiegare   to use; to take (time)
legare   to tie
litigare   to argue
navigare   to steer, sail
negare   to deny
pagare   to pay
piegare   to fold
pregare   to pray
spiegare   to explain
vagare   to wander

-cire verbs

These few verbs have just the opposite problem. The letter c followed by i, as in the infinitive cucire, is pronounced [tʃ]. But when you conjugate it in the present tense like a regular –ire verb:

io   cuco   noi cuciamo
tu   cuci   voi cucite
lui   cuce   loro cucono

In "cuco" and "cucono," the c is followed by o, which means the c is pronounced [k] (see Hard and soft vowels). Since we want the c to be pronounced [tʃ] like it is in the infinitive and the other conjugations, we need to soften it by adding i. So the correct conjugation table is this:

io   cucio   noi cuciamo
tu   cuci   voi cucite
lui   cuce   loro cuciono

More -cire verbs

cucire   to sew
ricucire   to mend
scucire   to unstitch

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Verbi di cambio ortografico